Political Economy

New patriots: How Roosevelt’s New Deal made America great again

Power, in the immortal words of Mao Tsetung, comes out of the barrel of a gun. This is one view of what state capacity means – the ability to coerce, if need be through the threat or actual use of violence. A long tradition in political thought going back to Thomas Hobbes sees naked power – guns, armed men and money – as the cornerstones of a capable state. An alternative view emphasises consensus and voluntary collaboration, as well as patriotic sentiment – the sense of belonging to a larger community. In Rousseau’s view, governments get to exercise power because citizens delegate it to them; in exchange for ceding power, rulers owe protection and support to their subjects. Voluntary, costly participation as part of a large group became more common after the rise of nation-states in the 19th century. Shared myths, the emphasis of a common history, the enforcement of linguistic uniformity in school and collective remembrance can all enhance a sense of shared identity (Nora 1989, Anderson 2006, Colley 2009).